A lengthy but absorbing tale steeped in profundity.

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ORPHAN TREE AND THE VANISHING SKELETON KEY

From the Orphan Dreamer Saga series , Vol. 4

A girl capable of time travel attempts to prevent Armageddon in this fourth installment of Brown’s eschatological fantasy saga.

It’s 1998, and 16-year-old Daniela Rose Cavanaugh is the Orphan Dreamer. She’s destined to use her time-traveling Glass Tattoo to try rescuing humans from a pandemic, the precursor to Armageddon on Earth. In this novel’s concurrent narrative, set in the present day, humanity faces multiple threats, from Covid-20 to an “invisible planet” set to collide with Earth in less than a year. But Covid-20 may be a “trial run” for a deadlier pandemic that fallen angel Nomed has long been planning. Daniela’s mission to avert Armageddon involves traveling to 575 B.C.E. to find Yahweh’s prophet Ezekiel and solve the mystery of the enigmatic Skeleton Key. At the same time, she dreams of her “oily boy,” teen Cillian Finn, who’s an enslaved person in India. She prays to Yahweh, asking for an angel to help Cillian, though she’s still unsure if the boy is the prophesied Antichrist—perhaps the most discernible sign of humanity’s end. With the companionship of her best friend and assistance from a powerful angel, Daniela hopes to save the world. Despite the time-hopping narrative, Brown’s epic tale is easy to follow. Not only do chapter headers clarify the time period and locale, but the story often stays in one era for prolonged narrative stretches. Characters spend much of the story discussing everything from religions to the racism that Daniela, as a brown girl, and others have endured. They also repeatedly, sometimes excessively, address certain topics, like who or what are the Nephilim, the human/fallen angel hybrids eagerly anticipating Armageddon. But Brown’s smart, incisive writing ensures the measured story avoids lulls with many surprises.

A lengthy but absorbing tale steeped in profundity. (author’s notes, dedications, acknowledgements, author bio)

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 655

Publisher: J. Nell Brown, LLC

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: yesterday

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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ALWAYS AND FOREVER, LARA JEAN

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 3

Lara Jean prepares for college and a wedding.

Korean-American Lara Jean is finally settled into a nice, complication-free relationship with her white boyfriend, Peter. But things don’t stay simple for long. When college acceptance letters roll in, Peter and Lara Jean discover they’re heading in different directions. As the two discuss the long-distance thing, Lara Jean’s widower father is making a major commitment: marrying the neighbor lady he’s been dating. The whirlwind of a wedding, college visits, prom, and the last few months of senior year provides an excellent backdrop for this final book about Lara Jean. The characters ping from event to event with emotions always at the forefront. Han further develops her cast, pushing them to new maturity and leaving few stones unturned. There’s only one problem here, and it’s what’s always held this series back from true greatness: Peter. Despite Han’s best efforts to flesh out Peter with abandonment issues and a crummy dad, he remains little more than a handsome jock. Frankly, Lara Jean and Peter may have cute teen chemistry, but Han's nuanced characterizations have often helped to subvert typical teen love-story tropes. This knowing subversion is frustratingly absent from the novel's denouement.

An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments. (Romance. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3048-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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THE HATE U GIVE

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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